The policy which started two decades ago allowed the Cuban migrants who set foot on U.S. soil to become legal permanent residents after a year.
In exchange for the abolition, the Cuban government has agreed to start taking back Cubans who are rejected or deported from the U.S.
Many Cubans in the U.S. say that Washington is rewarding the current regime in Cuba which has neglected human rights concerns, but President Obama is continuing to build on good relations with Cuba in his final days at the office. He said:
“With this change, we will continue to welcome Cubans as we welcome immigrants from other nations, consistent with our laws.”
Here are some statistics about Cubans in the United States according to Pew Research Center and Cuban Research Institute:
– In 2013, there were more than two million people of Cuban ancestry living in the United States, out of which 68% lived in Florida.
– After President Obama’s rapprochement with the Cuban government, the number of Cubans entering the United States has increased significantly. 24,278 Cubans arrived in the United States in 2014 fiscal year, and the number nearly doubled in 2015 with 43,159 Cubans entering the U.S. The upward trend remained in effect and the number still increased last year.
– The public opinion polls show that new arrivals and Cuban-Americans born in the U.S. are more supportive of good U.S.-Cuba relations compared to those who arrived before 1990.
The move was praised by the Cuban government on state television, which said that it was an important step in “advancing relations” between Cuba and the U.S.
The relations between the two countries are far from settled since Mr. Trump has taken a much tougher stance on Cuba and could reverse the new change.
The so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy has been applied to Cubans only, tens of thousands of whom reached the United States last year, including those who arrived by land.
Every year, many other Cubans are intercepted at sea by U.S. coast guard before they can get a dry foot on land. Immigrants coming from other countries to the U.S. without a visa could be arrested and deported.
A former Obama White House staffer and a Cuban-American from Miami, Felice Gorordo said that it was a bold step by the President and it was necessary for the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson also stated that it was the “right thing” to do to prohibit the people from abusing the system.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, on the other hand, was critical of the move and described it as a gift from the outgoing President to Raul Castro. He claimed that ending the policy would not limit the number of Cubans coming to the United States but only throw the process into question.